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Old 03-07-2011, 01:05 PM   #1
mikeoneill OP
Joined: Jul 2010
Location: Somers CT
Oddometer: 2
Ss1000 2010

I'm not certain how the seed for an Iron Butt ride got planted, but I started the planning in October, 2009 for a July, 2010 ride. Asking a few friends about it, several expressed an interest. By the time they told other friends no less than 12 people were ready to go. We were going to attempt the Iron Butt Association (IBA) 'entry level' ride of 1000 miles in less than 24 hours on motorcycles. The ride is aptly termed “Saddle Sore 1000”. I had mapped a route of 1041 miles from Enfield, CT to Myrtle Beach, SC using mainly interstates to speed our journey. Our route would take us from Enfield, CT down I90 to I84 in Hartford, CT catching I81 in Scranton, PA, to I77 in Virginia, then east on I20 in South Carolina, and finally to several state highways into Myrtle Beach.

In October of 2009 we were all supposed to meet to go over the route and times as well as get a feel for how many riders were actually serious about going. A half dozen people showed up, with another 3 not able to attend, and the date and route were set. As the months went by I weaned myself off the 8 cups of coffee a day that was normal for me and set a limit of 2. I did this knowing that coffee had little effect on me anymore, and I wanted it to work on the ride – just in case. 3 or 4 riders backed out for various reasons over the next few months and the week prior to our ride we were down to a manageable group of 4.

I woke without the alarm at 1AM on Wednesday, July 14th to pouring rain. The forecast was for rain thought the entire morning along our chosen route. Having slept a whole hour and a half I resisted the urge to down a coffee, telling myself that adrenaline will make up for the 1-1/2 hours sleep in 40 hours that I was looking forward to. Donning my ballistic nylon riding pants and jacket I proceeded to squeeze into vinyl rain gear and kiss my wife goodbye. I headed to the garage where my waiting bike had been packed the night before. Going over all the items I'd need for the trip, I checked them all off in my mind. The temperature was in the 80's at 1:45AM, very unusual for Connecticut, even in July. This, as it turned out, was nature's way of preparing me for what lay ahead. Rolling the motorcycle out of the garage I took a final mental inventory, slung my leg over the seat, and fired it up. Between the riding clothes, the rain gear, and a full face helmet, I was drenched in sweat 5 minutes into my ride to meet the others at a 24 hour Mobil station in Enfield. Arriving about 2AM the rain had miraculously stopped. I saw Norm LaBlanc at one of the pumps filling his truck. Norm was to be our starting witness for the ride. Alan Lanouette was supposed to make the journey with us, but a bad stator on his Harley, and his work schedule got in the way. Alan had been a driving force in the idea of the ride and I found myself feeling bad that he wasn't going with us. Being a true friend, he had lined up Norman to meet us at 2:30AM to witness our departure. At 2:30, Alan and his wife drove into the station as well to see us off as well.

You can't say enough good about people willing to get up at such an hour simply to see you off. Within a few minutes there were 4 motorcycles parked at the pumps as we headed to Norm's pickup truck to fill out the start witness paperwork. My friend Mark Pozzi with his Harley Ultra, Scott Menard riding a dressed Harley Road King, Chris Howland on his Harley Road Glide, and myself riding my BMW R1100RT were now minutes away from our journey. Chris and Scott are friends of Alan that I barely knew, but hey, anyone showing up in the rain at 2:30AM to ride 1000 miles must be okay. Besides, they knew Alan. Stripping off my rain gear I decided that wet was preferable to hot. After a few pictures we fueled up and checked our receipts to be sure the right date and time stamp showed.

A successful Saddle Sore is admission into a group of motorcycle riders (the IBA) numbering about 33,000 world-wide. The criteria for acceptance is a well documented route using gas (or other) dated and time-stamped receipts to prove location, time, and route. My beginning odometer reading was 22510. Taking on 3.8 gallons of premium the official start time of 2:53AM on Wednesday, July 14 was recorded. Setting my GPS to start the saved itinerary to Myrtle we headed out of the station toward I91 south. With Scott in the lead we set a pace of (insert legal speed limit here) and reached I84 west in what seemed like seconds. 100 miles later, and 20 miles into New York, Scott pulled over to put on a jacket. This was a good thing as Mark started the trip without a helmet and was now 20 miles into New York which has a helmet law. The 10 minute break at roadside allowed me time to reflect on just how tired I really was. The rain had just started back up as we mounted our rides and headed toward Scranton, PA. Fog, as well as a steady, heavy rain accompanied us to Montague, NJ where we made our first refuel stop. Topping off my tank with 3.7 gallons I dutifully recorded our location, my odometer reading of 22669, and a time of 5:40AM. Drying off to any degree was senseless, so off we went again with Scott in the lead. By now the fog was gone, replaced with an even harder rain. I had installed two 55 watt driving lights a few weeks before the trip but never had a chance to aim them properly. Each time I switched them on I feared I was blinding Chris and Scott who were both ahead of me so I left them off. Scott set a blistering pace though the heavy Pennsylvania rain where apprehension and adrenaline seemed to help my alertness. The next refuel was at 8:40AM in Jonestown, PA., where my odometer read 22828. I gassed up with 3.3 gallons of fuel and was thankful for the limited range of the big Harleys. I was losing focus, tired, and wet to the core by now. My neck and shoulders were beginning to ache. The longest motorcycle trip I had ever done was a 200 mile round trip in about 5 hours. After a 30 minute stop for juice and conversation we were back on I81 south. By now the rain no longer bothered me. I was as wet as I was ever going to be and it actually helped with the heat. Scott again set a fast pace of (insert legal speed limit here) into Virginia where I expected the posted speed limit to be 70. Virginia had voted to increase the speed limit to 70 effective July 1, 2010 but apparently hadn't got around to changing the signs. I think Virginia makes half its total revenue in traffic tickets, so this shouldn't have been a surprise. We pulled into a gas station in Strasburg, VA at 11:44AM where I used 3.5 gallons of fuel and recorded my odometer reading of 22990.

The rain had stopped and the sun was now baking us dry. The temperature was around 90 already and I stripped off my riding gear in favor of light cargo pants and a tee shirt. My neck, shoulders, butt, and left knee were asking me to get a hotel and return home the following day. Riding is a private, personal endeavor whether solo or in a group. Take four like-minded riders with a common goal and put them together for twenty hours of riding with only 3 of those hours using any type of communicative skills and what you get is a bond stronger than many weeks of social interaction. I was alone, yet somehow I wasn’t.

I had taken the sweeper position (rear of the group) since Jonestown and was having trouble focusing. Mark, who was in front of me had to position himself between the leaders and I while trying to keep both in sight. In the convenience store at the gas station Mark and I split a tuna sandwich and as we were checking out I saw the ubiquitous Five Hour Energy Drink. What the heck, it can't hurt. Adding a Red Bull to our tab as well we stepped out into the 90+ degree heat. The sandwich was much needed as was the juice bottle. I managed to drink half the Red Bull and down the 5 Hour thing as we discussed the heat. I'm a skeptic when it comes to miracle claims by any manufacturer, but 15 minutes back on the road and I felt the need to pass Mark at triple digit speed to indicate to Scott we should pick up the pace. I had my second wind. Fincastle, VA came at 2:24PM where I took 2.73 gallons at an odometer reading of 23139. Halfway there and I was feeling better than when I left my house. We can do this. Scott set a great pace of between (insert legal speed limit here) and (insert legal speed limit here). We reached Statesville, NC at 5:15PM. I took on 2.6 gallons of gas and recorded my odometer at 23296. The pump receipt was off an hour so we had to get the confused station manager to correct the time, sign it, and give us a phone number the IBA could call to verify that she signed it. Other than my neck, shoulders, knee, and butt, I felt great. The 3 hours to Camden, SC was uneventful. I was, for the first time this trip, 'in the zone'. Reaching the gas station in Camden I took on another 4.3 gallons and noted my odometer at 23464 miles. It was 8:07PM and my GPS had us arriving before 11PM – that works for me. Two and a half hours on what was to be secondary highways put us in Conway, SC where we did our final refuel. 10:43PM, 2.5 gallons, and the odometer read 23570 miles.

According to the GPS we had our 1000 miles in the bag. Wanting to get to the hotel as soon as possible we pushed off down secondary roads until Scott and I lost sight of Chris and Mark. Stopping, we doubled back to find them at a gas station with a tool bag laid out and Mark crouched down at the side of his bike. The shifter linkage had popped off at the same moment his clutch began to slip. We were, by GPS, only 1.1 miles from our final destination. Playing with the linkage we managed to get the bike into second gear and chose quiet streets with no traffic to attempt to get the ailing bike to the motel. We pulled into the Ocean West Motel in Myrtle Beach at 11.49PM where the owner, Kyle Clark, checked us in and signed our ending witness form. 21 hours of riding and we were finally done.

As tired as we were, we all changed into our bathing suits for what turned out to be a less-than-refreshing dip in an 80+ degree pool. Beer and cigars in hand the trials of the day soon melted away, replaced by a feeling of accomplishment and pride.

After a day in Myrtle, I felt like I had known Mark, Chris, and Scott forever. That bond was finalized after a $300 booze tab at a local raw bar near our motel.

The second day in Myrtle Beach saw Chris and Scott up early to pack for the ride back to Connecticut. I felt less-than-stellar from the night before and was thankful that Mark and I were leaving later in the day for our return trip. After a visit to Mark’s daughter in Charleston, NC we set our sights on home. Our goal was to be north of Washington, DC before getting a hotel, but heavy traffic and rain saw us laying over in Fredericksburg, VA instead. The following day, Sunday, we looked forward to an easy 400 mile ride home. Traffic and heat conspired against us, turning our easy 400 mile journey into a 13 hour ordeal.

Mark and I pulled into the Enfield Elks Lodge just before 10PM and talked the closing bartender into pouring us a celebratory beer. The ride home was quick and the sight of my house was more than welcome at this point. Five days and some 2700 miles after I had left, I was finally home.

Would I do it again? With the right people - in a heartbeat. I say with the right people, because riding is a personal experience best shared with good friends.
Mike O'Neill
IBA 45605
BMWMOA 155206
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Old 03-07-2011, 09:07 PM   #2
Lucky Rider
Ratman's Avatar
Joined: Feb 2005
Location: Baja is good
Oddometer: 1,200
Thanks for the RR.
Congrats on do an SS1000. You did it the hard way....but you got it done. That's all that's important.
Ratman.......Pete .... My Solo Continental Divide Ride
....and of course, Luck beats good...
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